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Microsoft readies for Hyper-V finale with new release candidate

Microsoft announced today it has delivered a complete release candidate (RC) of Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V and is on track to deliver the final product — at a bargain price — in August 2008.

Hyper-V, code-named Viridian, is hypervisor based virtualization for x64 versions of Windows Server 2008. The Hyper-V hypervisor will also be available as a stand-alone offering, without the Windows Server functionality, as Microsoft Hyper-V Server.

Microsoft has been giving public users a taste of its virtualization offering with Beta releases of Hyper-V since December 2007. Microsoft also released a Community Technology Preview (CTP) of Hyper-V in September 2007.

This new release candidate includes three areas of improvement:

* An expanded list of tested and qualified guest operating systems including: Windows Server 2003 SP2, Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 SP1, Windows Vista SP1, and Windows XP SP3.
* Host server and language support has been expanded to include the 64-bit (x64) versions of Windows Server 2008 Standard, Enterprise, and Datacenter editions in various language options.
* Improved performance and stability for better scalability and high throughput workloads.

Despite Microsoft’s image as a market dominatrix, the computing giant may have a tough time chipping away at VMware’s dominance in x86 virtualization, said Charles King, principal analyst with Hayward, Calif.-based Pund-IT, Inc in his weekly Pund-IT review today.

“The conventional wisdom around Microsoft’s market impact tends to follow a common theme; that the company’s sheer size makes it a serious competitor wherever it decides to play, but we see a number of obstacles in the way of Microsoft’s leadership goals,” King wrote. “First, though the x86 virtualization market is relatively small (Microsoft estimates that only 10% of servers are currently virtualized) VMware has found a remarkable number of Fortune 1000 customers who drive significant sales and revenues.

“In addition, those large companies tend to be among the most conservative of IT users; once they choose a reliable technology and vendor they tend to stick with them through thick and thin,” King said.

But considering its relatively low entry price of about $28 per Hyper-V Server, Microsoft could be the pathway to virtualization for a wider audience than other high priced players like VMware have been able to reach, King reported. If purchased standalone for hard-drive installation, ESX Server 3i list price is $495 per 2 processors, according to VMware’s website. “If Hyper- V’s features prove to be as robust and beneficial as Microsoft claims, the company could become a significant virtualization player for years to come,” he said.

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Microsoft's low hypervisor entry price does clearly follow their "dominatrix" method of operation. Think back to the days when Microsoft was strictly an operating system company. When they entered the word processing, spreadsheet and database market, they used a similar tactic to force the competition out of business. They put all three products together and sold the bundle that became Microsoft Office for $99.00. At the time, Word Perfect, Lotus 123, and Paradox (and their existing competitors) each sold seperately for about $150.00. Now that Microsoft dominates that space and has killed off their competitors, the price of Microsoft Office isn't $99.00 any more! Gee, Hyper-V Server for $28.00 each. Deja vu?
So far, so good. If Hyper-V is even close to VMWare's ESX performance, then it will be an easier entry point for predominantly Windows shops -- especially when you consider the licensing implications of the VMs running on the host. That is where the real cost savings are. Also, the management platform of System Center Virtual Machine Manager is priced better than Virtual Center from VMWare. But Hyper-V will have to be good enough to be considered. As to Mr. Brennan's suggestion that it was Microsoft that started the price wars in the WP, Lotus, Harvard Graphics days, it was not. It was actually Borland that started it by offering Quattro Pro for $99 when everyone else was charging upwards of $200 for the various stand-alone products (at one time, Harvard Graphics was a robust $495). It wasn't Microsoft that started that war, and they never offered an entire suite for $99. What they did was offer a suite for what everyone else (but Borland) was charging for an individual product once Borland laid down that gauntlet. -ASB